Hanover Presbytery

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The First Battle of the American Revolution

There are two phases of the church which are understood in the Biblical record. One of them is the triumphant church, which are God’s people in heaven.  The other is the militant church, which are God’s people in constant combat with the forces of wickedness on this earth. Primarily, that militancy is a spiritual one, but occasionally the militant church has to do battle in the physical realm.  October 10, 1774 was one of those times.

We have already looked at the beginning stage of this great battle between the Virginia militia and the Indians of Point Pleasant. That occurred on September 11, 1774, just about one month prior to this event.  (See entry)  Here today is an account of the conclusion of their forced march through the wilderness.  Remember, most of the eleven hundred Virginia militia, led by General Andrew Lewis, were members of the Presbyterian churches of Hanover Presbytery.

Arriving near present day Point Pleasant, West Virginia, the battle began with an attack by the Shawnee chief Cornstalk, with three  hundred to five hundred and possibly even up to one thousand braves behind him.    In fact, there were a series of skirmishes in the all day battle, some of which were hand to hand in nature. It was one of the most vicious battles which the Virginia backwoodsmen up to that point of their existence had to wage.

About one fifth of General Lewis’s men were killed and wounded, which translated out to 75 soldiers killed and 140 wounded. Judging the Indians injuries is difficult, but estimates range from a handful all the way up to two hundred and thirty casualties. When militia reserves came in around midnight, the Indians fled across the Ohio River.  It was at a later date that the native Americans signed a treaty which opened up present day Kentucky and Tennessee. It also opened up both of those future states to the gospel in general, and in particular to the establishment of Presbyterian churches.

When they returned to Virginia, they discovered that the two battles of Lexington and Concord had already been fought up in Massachusetts. The American Revolution had started. Yet, because of all the future battles of that War of independence, this battle has been forgotten by historians. Yet this was the leading battle of the American War of Independence, and Presbyterian members had a pivotal part in it.

Words to live by: On occasion, there may be cause to actually take up arms and fight for your lives.  This was one such occasion.  With continual attacks upon settlements and meeting houses, it was either the Presbyterian inhabitants returning back to the sea-coast towns,  where there was more security, or staying put and fighting for their faith, their families, and their churches.   Certainly Samuel Davies, of the Hanover Presbytery, would preach many a war sermon to encourage the defense of both the faith and their lives from marauding Indians.  And Presbyterian settlers took their life in their hands along with their sacred honor, and stood their ground and rallied on this occasion.  Certainly the cultural mandate demands that we take our stand on biblical principles and against those who would seek to destroy that principles.  Are you praying, and working, in at least one area of this cultural mandate?

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Hewn Stones and Dornacks.

Our post today is drawn from the History of the Presbyterian Church in America, by Richard Webster (1857) and edited for length.

John Craig was born in Ireland, September 21, 1710, but educated in America. He appeared before Donegal Presbytery in the fall of 1736, and was taken on trial the next spring, and licensed, August 30, 1738. He was sent to Deer Creek (now Churchville, Maryland) and to West Conecocheague. He spent the summer in those places, and Conewago and Opequhon. West Conecocheague called him in the fall of 1739; but he declined a settlement in that charge.

In 1737, the new-settled inhabitants of Beverly’s Manor applied for supplies; and Anderson visited them, and settled the bounds of the congregations “in an orderly manner, by the voice of the people.” Craig was sent, at the close of 1739, to Opequhon, Irish Tract, and other places in Western Virginia. He was “the commencer of the Presbyterian service in Augusta.” He gathered two congregations in the south part of the Manor, now Augusta county, and, in April, 1740, received a call from Shanadore and South River. It is described in the call as the congregation of the Triple Forks of Shenandoah, but long since known as Augusta and Tinkling Spring. On the 2d of September, 1740, Robert Poag and Daniel Denniston appeared as representatives, and took on them the engagements made by the people at installations. On the next day, after Sanckey had preached from Jer. iii. 15, Craig was ordained and installed.

“Going down from the splendid prospect of the Rockfish Gap, you enter the bounds of the oldest congregation in Virginia, Tinkling Spring, with its old stone church. Here, in a wooden building finished by the widow of John Preston, Craig preached. He was greatly opposed to the location of the meeting, wishing it more central.” The people chose it, among other reasons, for the convenience of the spring; and, it is said, “he never suffered its water to cool his thirst.”

He resigned the pastoral care of Tinkling Spring in November, 1754; and the sermon which he preached on that occasion, from 2 Sam. xxiii. 5, is the only one of his discourses that can be found. It was printed, for the first time, in the “Baltimore Literary and Religious Magazine,” in December, 1760.

“In this short discourse,” he says,

“I have collected together the sum and substance of those doctrines I have declared to you these twenty-five years past. . . . .

“I have long, often, and sincerely exhorted, entreated, invited, and besought you, in public, in private, in secret, to come and take hold of God’s covenant and Christ the Mediator thereof. I hope some among you have sincerely complied: I wish I could say all that I have been so nearly concerned for or related to. But now our near and dear pastoral relation is dissolved. And, oh, how does my heart tremble to think and fear that too, too many among you have not sincerely accepted of and embraced Christ on gospel terms! Oh, how can I leave you at a distance from Christ, and strangers to the God that made you? I cannot leave you till I give you another offer of Christ and the covenant of grace. Let me beg of you, for your souls’ sake, for Christ’s sake, to leave all your sins, and come, come speedily, and lay hold on the covenant and the Mediator; never, never let him go till he bless you.

“Few and poor, and without order, were you when I accepted your call; but now I leave you a numerous, wealthy congregation, able to support the gospel, and of credit and reputation in the church.

“For coming into the bond of this covenant of grace; it is by faith we take hold of it. This we do when we are thoroughly, clearly convinced of our sin, and misery, and undone state under the covenant of works; and do hence betake ourselves to the new covenant, to the gracious method of salvation proposed to us in the gospel through Jesus Christ and his righteousness, and do cordially approve of, and acquiesce in this noble contrivance, and accept of Jesus Christ as our only Mediator, Surety, and Peacemaker with God, and in him do sincerely make choice of God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—to be our God and portion. On our part, giving ourselves soul and body to be the Lord’s; engaging, in the strength of our great surety, Jesus Christ, to abandon all sin, live for his glory, and walk with him in newness of life, as becomes God’s covenanted people. This great work is carried on in all its parts by God’s Holy Spirit, helping and determining our souls to do all these things heartily, cheerfully, and sincerely.”

In parting, he makes no complaints of them, and no boasting of himself.

He remained as pastor over the smaller charge or congregation of Augusta till his death, April 21, 1774, dying “after fifteen hours’ affliction,” at the age of sixty-three years and four months.

“The old people in Augusta county have learned from their fathers that he was a man mighty in the Scriptures,—‘in perils oft, in labours abundant,’ for the gospel; and they hold his memory in the highest veneration.”

An anecdote is told of his having been sent by Hanover Presbytery to organize churches and ordain elders, among the settlements of New River to Holstein. On his return he reported a surprising number of elders whom he had ordained; and on being questioned how he found suitable materials for so many, he replied, in his rich Scottish brogue, “Where I cudna get hewn stanes, I tuk dornacks.” [a dornack is a small unhewn stone normally rejected by builders]

Words to Live By:
“The saying is trustworthy:If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. “Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober- minded, self- controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,
“not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.
“He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive,
“for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? “He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.
“Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.”
—1 Timothy 3:1-7, ESV.

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The True Meaning of Separation of Church and State

Four months after the Declaration of Independence was presented to the fledgling country, Hanover Presbytery in Virginia presented a memorial on October 24, 1776 on the subject of the free exercise of religion.

On the one hand, there was stated in the memorial the realization that “the gospel does not need any such civil aid.”  These Presbyterian teaching and ruling elders recognized that the Savior declared that His kingdom was not of this world, and therefore renounced “all dependence upon state power.” Our Lord’s weapons, this mother of all southern presbyteries, stated, “are spiritual and were only designed to have influence on the judgment and heart of man.”  Biblical Christianity will continue to prevail and flourish in the greatest purity by its own native excellence and under the all-disposing providence of God, as it was the case in the days of the apostles.

Then, they humbly petitioned their civil counterparts by saying, “we ask no ecclesiastical establishments for ourselves, nor can we approve of them when granted to others.”  In other words, let there be no state or national church in this new republic, such was the case in England, and for that matter, in Virginia up to this time, where Anglicanism was the religion of the state.  ”Let all laws,” they said in their appeal to the General Assembly as it met for the first time, “which countenance religious domination be speedily repealed, that all of every religious sect may be protected in the full exercise of their several modes of worship.”  Every church then “will be left to stand or fall according to merit, which can never be the case so long as any one denomination is established in preference to others.”

This was the full meaning of the separation of church and state in the early days of our country. These early Presbyterians did not desire that Presbyterianism be the religion of the new land.  But neither did they desire that any other denomination have the priority in America. Let there be a separation of church and state.

Words to live by:  In our day and age, this separation of church and state has been misinterpreted to mean the separation of God and state.  So there is a constant effort to erase any mention of the God of the Bible from our local, state, and national arenas of life.  From the removal of the Ten Commandments in monuments to the hindrance of placing cradles of the baby Jesus at Christmas time on courtyards to religious jewelry like crosses being forbidden by workers — all this is being done supposedly on the basis of the separation of church and state. Christians must be vocal in denouncing such opposition and correcting the misinterpreting of the slogan in the minds and hearts of America.  Let us not be silent in this. We must be more theologically correct than politically correct.

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

The True Meaning of Separation of Church and State

Four months after the Declaration  of Independence was presented to the fledgling country, Hanover Presbytery in Virginia presented a memorial on October 24, 1776 on the subject of the free exercise of religion.

On the one hand, there was stated in the memorial the realization that “the gospel does not need any such civil aid.”  These Presbyterian teaching and ruling elders recognized that the Savior declared that His kingdom was not of this world, and therefore renounced “all dependence upon state power.” Our Lord’s weapons, this mother of all southern presbyteries, stated, “are spiritual and were only designed to have influence on the judgment and heart of man.”  Biblical Christianity will continue to prevail and flourish in the greatest purity by its own native excellence and under the all-disposing providence of God, as it was the case in the days of the apostles.

Then, they humbly petitioned their civil counterparts by saying, “we ask no ecclesiastical establishments for ourselves, nor can we approve of them when granted to others.”  In other words, let there be no state or national church in this new republic, such was the case in England, and for that matter, in Virginia up to this time, where Anglicanism was the religion of the state.  “Let all laws,” they said in their appeal to the General Assembly as it met for the first time, “which countenance religious domination be speedily repealed, that all of every religious sect may be protected in the full exercise of their several modes of worship.”  Every church then “will be left to stand or fall according to merit, which can never be the case so long as any one denomination is established in preference to others.”

This was the full meaning of the separation of church and state in the early days of our country. These early Presbyterians did not desire that Presbyterianism be the religion of the new land.  But neither did they desire that any other denomination have the priority in America. Let there be a separation of church and state.

Words to live by:  In our day and age, this separation of church and state has been misinterpreted to mean the separation of God and state.  So there is a constant effort to erase any mention of the God of the Bible from our local, state, and national arenas of life.  From the removal of the Ten Commandments in monuments to the hindrance of placing cradles of the baby Jesus at Christmas time on courtyards to religious jewelry like crosses being forbidden by workers — all this is being done supposedly on the basis of the separation of church and state. Christians must be vocal in denouncing such opposition and correcting the misinterpreting of the slogan in the minds and hearts of America.  Let us not be silent in this.  We must be more theologically correct than politically correct.

Through the Scriptures:  Mark 4 – 6

Through the Standards:  Safeguard on the truth of communion of saints

WCF 26:3
“This communion which the saints  have with Christ, does not make them in any wise partakers of the substance of the Godhead; or to be equal with Christ in any respect: either of which to affirm in impious and blasphemous.  Nor does their communion one with another, as saints, take away, or infringe the title or propriety which each man has in his goods and possessions.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:

The First Battle of the American Revolution

There are two phases of the church which are understood in the Biblical record. One of them is the triumphant church, which are God’s people in heaven.  The other is the militant church, which are God’s people in constant combat with the forces of wickedness on this earth. Primarily, that militancy is a spiritual one, but occasionally the militant church has to do battle in the physical realm.  October 10, 1774 was one of those times.

We have already looked at the beginning stage of this great battle between the Virginia militia and the Indians of Point Pleasant. That occurred on September 11, 1774, just about one month prior to this event.  (See entry)  Here today is an account of the conclusion of their forced march through the wilderness.  Remember, most of the eleven hundred Virginia militia, led by General Andrew Lewis, were members of the Presbyterian churches of Hanover Presbytery.

Arriving near present day Point Pleasant, West Virginia, the battle began with an attack by the Shawnee chief Cornstalk, with three  hundred to five hundred and possibly even up to one thousand braves behind him.    In fact, there were a series of skirmishes in the all day battle, some of which were hand to hand in nature. It was one of the most vicious battles which the Virginia backwoodsmen up to that point of their existence had to wage.

About one fifth of General Lewis’s men were killed and wounded, which translated out to 75 soldiers killed and 140 wounded. Judging the Indians injuries is difficult, but estimates range from a handful all the way up to two hundred and thirty casualties. When militia reserves came in around midnight, the Indians fled across the Ohio River.  It was at a later date that the native Americans signed a treaty which opened up present day Kentucky and Tennessee. It also opened up both of those future states to the gospel in general, and in particular to the establishment of Presbyterian churches.

When they returned to Virginia, they discovered that the two battles of Lexington and Concord had already been fought up in Massachusetts. The American Revolution had started. Yet, because of all the future battles of that War of independence, this battle has been forgotten by historians. Yet this was the leading battle of the American War of Independence, and Presbyterian members had a pivotal part in it.

Words to live by: On occasion, there may be cause to actually take up arms and fight for your lives.  This was one such occasion.  With continual attacks upon settlements and meeting houses, it was either the Presbyterian inhabitants returning back to the sea-coast towns,  where there was more security, or staying put and fighting for their faith, their families, and their churches.   Certainly Samuel Davies, of the Hanover Presbytery, would preach many a war sermon to encourage the defense of both the faith and their lives from marauding Indians.  And Presbyterian settlers took their life in their hands along with their sacred honor, and stood their ground and rallied on this occasion.  Certainly the cultural mandate demands that we take our stand on biblical principles and against those who would seek to destroy that principles.  Are you praying, and working, in at least one area of this cultural mandate?

Through the Scriptures: Nehemiah 1 – 3

Through the Standards: Definition of the Invisible Church

WCF 25:1
“The catholic or universal church, which is invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ the Head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fulness of Him that fills all in all.”

L.C. 64 “What is the invisible church?  A. The invisible church is the whole number of the elect, t hat have been, are, or shall be gathered into one under Christ the head.”

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This Day in Presbyterian History:  

An Apostle Becomes a President

We cannot say enough about Samuel Davies, the apostle to Virginia in the colony of Virginia since 1747.   Establishing preaching points with permission from the Anglican governor, Davies had preached with boldness God’s salvation through Christ alone to the people around each of these points.  Often, he had to take journeys of five hundred miles on horseback to minister to his many parishioners.  By 1755, churches had been established for a Hanover Presbytery to be organized.  This was the first Presbytery outside the northeast part of the colonies.  It was under the oversight of the New Side Presbyterians of New York!

In 1758, the third president of the College of New Jersey, Jonathan Edwards, died from smallpox.  The trustees asked Samuel Davies to assume his office.  The minister was not unknown by the college, since he had raised funds for it earlier in England.   But Davies refused the offer, citing his open door for effective service in Virginia.  They offered him the position a second, and third, and fourth time.  Finally, he yielded to the request, and in July 26, 1759, Samuel Davies was inaugurated as President of the College of New Jersey.  He was described by one trustee as a man, upon whom the Spirit of God had given uncommon gifts.

At the College, which later on became both Princeton Seminary and Princeton University, Samuel Davies worked with the same zeal which had characterized him in Virginia.  At age 38 however, he died of pneumonia in 1761.  His aged mother said of  him at his burial, citing the sovereign providence of God, “There is the will of God, and I am satisfied.”

Words to Live By: 
God makes no mistakes.  The Spirit of God led him to Virginia, to enter the open door of evangelism and church planting which was necessary for that future state.  (The site of his congregation, north of Richmond, Virginia,  burned during one of the battles of the War Between the States, and is now marked as a historical spot.)  Then God led him to the College of New Jersey.  Historic Biblical Presbyterianism was established in the hearts and minds of many Virginia’s spiritual sons and daughters, as well in the students of the College.  Pray for your faith, that it may be established in hearts and minds today, starting with yourself, your family, your neighbors, your work associates, and your church.

Through the Scriptures: Isaiah 58 – 60

Through the Standards:    The sins of equals

WLC 132  — “What are the sins of equals?
A.  The sins of equals are, besides the neglect of the duties required, the undervaluing of the worth, envying the gifts, grieving at the advancement or prosperity one of another; and usurping pre-eminence one over another.”

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